Friday, May 16, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
Background: Discrete trial programs are commonly used to teach children with autism new skills. However, there is no universally accepted discrete trial program methodology, and methodological differences between programs are common. For example, when teaching simple receptive discriminations (e.g., “touch ____, “ “show me ___”) discrete trial programs are commonly discrepant regarding the preferred teaching methodology. One described procedure used to teach simple discriminations, the Simple/Conditional procedure, suggests that novel receptive discriminations be taught by progressing systematically from a simple discrimination training phase (which involves teaching the stimuli in the absence of any distracter stimuli), to a conditional discrimination training phase, (which involves adding a distracter stimuli). An alternative, yet briefer, procedure, the Conditional Only procedure, suggests that receptive discriminations be taught exclusively in the context of conditional discriminations, using distracter stimuli.
Objectives: We compared the differential effectiveness of two commonly used, yet unevaluated procedures. We evaluated the Simple/Conditional teaching procedure and the Conditional Only procedure for teaching a simple receptive discrimination to young children with autism using discrete trials.
Methods: Three children, ages 2-4 were taught to receptively identify picture cards of common items. A single-subject, adapted alternating treatment design was used to evaluate the two procedures. Data was collected on the number of training trials required to reach a mastery criterion. Following training, a 1-month follow-up session was conducted to assess maintenance of learned skills.
Results: The results of this study showed that there was no consistent difference between procedures in the acquisition of or improved maintenance of discrimination skills.
Conclusions: These results suggest that for some children, the use of the common, yet more lengthy, Simple/Conditional procedure may incorporate unnecessary teaching steps, thereby needlessly lengthening the training process.